Monday, February 27, 2017

Livin' in a home in the heart of the country (Paul McCartney)

Yesterday, as one of my senior students got out of a school van, I couldn't help notice that he was carrying a small chilly bin. I made a quip about - that's a big lunch!

He opened up the lid and showed me the contents - ripe fat juicy blackberries. I guessed he and his family had collected them on the weekend. I supposed he was bringing them in to share with his classmates.

He asked if I wanted some and I laughed and said - bit early for me, but if you have a few left at the end of the day, sure. I'd love some.

I didn't think anything else of it until after school. As he went to get back on board a school van he mentioned that he'd left some for me in my office.

He wasn't kidding - and the 'some' turned out to be rather a lot!

I have just enjoyed some on my breakfast and look forward to eating the rest in a pie tonight!

Why am I telling you this?

Well, the generosity of spirit impressed me greatly, for one thing. 

This wasn't like an end of year type gift from a student whom I'd taught, this was hard earned (blackberry picking is fun but time consuming and the prickles hurt) and given spontaneously.

If he hadn't left them I would never have given it a second thought, but he'd obviously remembered the earlier conversation and thought about things enough to leave them for me.

I really appreciated the realness and sincerity of the gift and, bonus, they were delicious!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Be afraid. Be very afraid (The Fly)

After talking about this video to a colleague at school, I realised I hadn't added it to any of my blogs, it is! 

The item in question is a fantastic video analysis of Donald Trump's media spokeperson Kellyanne Conway.

Like it or not (and I don't), we are living in a post-truth world where communication is fudged and lies are passed as fact. As an English teacher and a human being, this is bad news.

All this spin and post truth stuff is scary, fascinating and deeply troubling - much like Trump himself!!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

It's all an unfinished film (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

Here's an excerpt from my latest newsletter article:
As a famous saying goes, ‘Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like an apple’. With the first full week, we suddenly feel like the year has started in earnest. Time is flying by! 
This week, in extended vertical form classes and in the junior school, students have been engaged in establishing their learning goals and personal goals for the year. It is our aim that these goals will be monitored regularly in the extended form class time.  
While I was standing in for Mrs Read in her form class, I also wrote my own goals for these two areas.  
My learning goal is to read at least 50 books this year and my personal goal is do more forward planning with my own writing so that my writing can improve with more frequent editing.

Just like the students, to successfully reach my goals I will need to be quite self-disciplined, avoid some long standing distractions, manage my time well and be reminded of my goal regularly.  
I will need my students in Mrs Read’s vertical form to keep me honest. I aim to keep them honest with their goals as well.
So far so good - starting with books I brought back from our Christmas holiday, it's one book down (Lawrence Ferlinghetti - Pictures of the Gone World).

Monday, February 13, 2017

Short people are just the same as you and I (Randy Newman)

I'm loving the chance to go into our youngest students' class rooms. 

After getting my 'Good morning Mr Purdy' sing song greeting I look and learn.

It's quieter and a lot more deliberate and ordered in there - something that I am not used to because secondary class rooms are much more independently minded. As in teenagers have a different disposition to pre teens.

I'm a sucker for Year 3's especially - sitting on the floor surrounding the teacher (the students - not me silly). So keen to learn, so keen to impress, so keen to engage. 

There's a lot of instinct going on in these Year 3 to Year 6 classrooms. Learning processes are visible. I can see what they are thinking.

They are instantly processing options. Instinctively doing the things that Dan Rockwell writes about in his post on 10 heart-based questions that produce the very best decisions (not your snappiest title, Dan).

Here are his ten questions:
  1. What does courage/confidence tell you to do?
  2. What does humility tell you to do?
  3. What does integrity/honesty/openness tell you to do?
  4. What does flexibility/agility tell you to do?
  5. What does perseverance tell you to do?
  6. What does compassion/kindness tell you to do?
  7. What does decisiveness tell you to do?
  8. What does respect for others tell you to do?
  9. What does passion tell you to do?
  10. What does seeking the best interests of others tell you to do?
We could all learn a lot from that class of Year 3's I watched today. They instantly asked and answered these sophisticated questions without over-thinking things. 

It was a joy to behold!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The secret of your success is found in your daily routine (John Maxwell)

My communication to parents and my school community includes a bespoke column in our weekly newsletter. Here are edited highlights from my first two:

First days are special days. We remember them forever.

I thought about some of my first days as I welcomed the new Year 3 class to Westmount’s Kaipara campus. I told them that we had something exciting in common – it was our first day at a great school!

I certainly remember my first day at Royal Oak Primary School in October 1962. Luckily, I was immediately befriended by another new boy and the staff helped me adjust to the challenging new world of formal education. Lo and behold, here I am in 2017 – still in formal education!

I hope all of the new students joining our campus also had a memorable introduction to their educational career. I will be watching their progress with huge interest over the next eleven years.

Thankfully a large number of people have also made me feel welcome leading to my first day. The staff, parents, students, Campus Administrator team, Phil Muir and other Westmount staff, have all embraced change and welcomed me and the other new staff to the school.

A little bit about me: I have come to Maungaturoto from Hawke’s Bay, where I was teaching at Woodford House. My wife, Jacky, and I have bought a lovely property just out of Maungaturoto and we are settling in nicely to our new environment. Our four adult children live in San Francisco, Melbourne, Auckland and Palmerston North.

My Twitter account describes me as a ‘less is more, Occam's razor guy, a tea drinker, lead learner, blogger, musicologist, and Arsenal F.C. fan’. As an English teacher, I love writing, hence the daily blogging and I love many types of music.

My education philosophy dovetails with our campus vision – our school will be a creative and vibrant environment where everyone is valued and students are empowered to reach their full potential.

Our campus administrators have set some challenging and appropriate goals for staff, students and the school as a whole which I encourage you to read elsewhere in this publication.

I am relishing the opportunity to lead an exceptional group of staff, both teachers and support staff, to realise these goals in 2017.

From a young age, I learnt that routines have their place. My father, Graham Purdy, was a past master at establishing and keeping to a number of routines. Although he was a pharmacist, he would have made a great teacher.

Along with the other new staff, I am starting to gain greater insights into the Westmount Kaipara campus routines. No doubt, adjusting to hearing bells again, my last school did not operate on bell reminders, and learning the Westmount ways will take me a little time.

The safe daily arrival and departure of our 17 vans is an important routine for students and parents. After watching the daily procedure last week, it became clear to me that some improvements were required to give us a safer and speedier exit from the school at 3 o’clock.

I discussed the problem with a variety of staff and students and Wylie Smith came up with a simple solution. As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter – Occam’s razor which holds that the simplest solution is usually the best, is a valuable motto to adopt.

Okay it won't win a Pulitzer prize but it's another good vehicle for self reflection and communication to the community. Just saying!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The ending of the tale is the singing of the song (Graham Nash)

One week into the academic year and I'm touring classrooms to get a feel for what's happening.

I like to keep things simple. Less is more.

I aim to ask students simple questions like...
What are you working on?
What do you think about that?
Why do you think that?
How do you know this?
Can you tell me more?
At the end of the day as they go to the school vans I ask them more simple questions?
How was your day?
What was the highlight?
Why was that a highlight?
I get some great responses from seemingly simple questions.